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Tons of cocaine found in Italy warehouse

Published Oct. 6, 2005

Italian police seized about 6 tons of cocaine, a European record, after a shootout in a Turin warehouse, an Italian liaison to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said Monday.

No one was wounded in the gunfire Sunday night. The operation, which resulted in 10 arrests, showed that Colombian drug cartels and the Mafia are tightening their links, said U.S. and Italian officials, who cooperated in the case.

Details of the operation came from the Italian official, who spoke on the condition his name not be used.

The cocaine, packed in a container of shoes, left Colombia aboard the freighter Cartagena de Indias sometime in January. While it was en route, an informant tipped the Miami DEA office that drugs were aboard and that the ship would arrive in Genoa in late January.

The DEA informed Italy's Central Directorate Anti-Drug Service, which set up surveillance in Genoa until the ship arrived. The container sat in a Genovese warehouse until last week, when it was loaded onto a truck.

The cocaine was bound only in part for Italy, the liaison said. The rest probably was to be divided among other European countries.

All those arrested in Turin are Italian and are believed linked with organized crime families, the official said.

The seizure far exceeded the largest previous bust in Europe, 2,000 kilograms in the Netherlands two years ago.

The largest seizure of cocaine in the world remains 21.4 tons found in a warehouse in the Los Angeles area in 1989.